I don’t know how I feel about this book.
I’ve not been able to pin down how I feel about it since I started reading. It probably doesn’t help that I adore Saving Francesca (I’m going to have to write a post about my love for that book. It needs to be done), so I went in with high expectations.
So starting with what I do I like. The concept is brilliant, and the world she’s created is described well. You are drawn completely into the universe, and despite all the reservations I have about the novel, I didn’t consider stopping. You want to know what happens, and she the pacing is good. It’s not a dull book and the characters are well formed and real.
However at times, the writing is clumsy. Parts of the plot aren’t explained well enough; for instance a character mentioned several times with no knowledge of who they are, or why they are important. They are then introduced properly a chapter or so later. The general introduction of characters to the plot isn’t done well. The plot switches between scenes and characters in a jarring way, and it took me a while to right myself whenever this happened.
I disliked Evanjaline through the majority of the book, and found it difficult to have any empathy for her until part three. I therefore did not understand Finnikin’s attraction to her, and don’t connect with their romance at all. Finnikin saved the book for me in a way. He’s human. Confused, fighting against a strange destiny, caught up in a fate he didn’t create and battling against people who won’t tell him the whole story. I liked him, I understood him, and felt his frustration with other characters.
The role of women in this novel is probably the most perplexing aspect, and one I’ve found difficult to voice. I like that the women in this book are women. They are strong, and they are survivors, but they haven't been made masculine in order to be so. They are celebrated for being female, which I appreciated. However, women are also put on pedestals and venerated in a way that’s frustrating. They are all beautiful, and all need protecting. While Isaboe will rule in her own right, the people need her to marry, and will not be satisfied until she does. She needs a protector (despite the fact she’s survived goodness knows how many massacres alone). There are no female soldiers that I read of (please do correct me if I’m wrong). I still haven’t decided where the women stand; they are strong, they are survivors and rulers that need to be married and protected. It doesn’t quite work in my head.
I did enjoy this book overall. While I do want to read the next two in the series, I’m not rushing to find them.